ZION MINISTRIES - Prophecy to the Church of God, the tribes of Israel and the world.
WHERE IS THE TRUE CHURCH TODAY?
Christ did build a Church! Where is that Church today? Are all Christian Churches a part of this Church? How can you identify the Church that Christ built? You need to know this vital information!
By Neville V. Stevens
NIV used throughout unless otherwise stated
Christ said the 'gates of Hades' would not prevail against His Church. This quote is found in Matt 16:17 "Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."
Which 'rock' did Christ mean? The name 'Peter' (Gr: petros) means a 'rock or stone'. The word used in this verse for 'rock' (Gr: petra) means a big stone or large rock. But the name that Christ gave Peter in Aramaic, 'kepha' or 'Cephas' in John 1:42, means something midway between a stone and a rock - that is - a boulder. Why the constant reference to Simon bar Jonas (Simon son of Jonas) as Peter or Cephas if Christ was speaking of Himself? The very context of Matt 16:17 lends no credence to the assumption that Christ was referring to Himself. This was the only occasion when Christ used the term 'Church'.
Before we decide the answer to this riddle, we need to understand how the Bible communicates its message. There are many important principles that must be observed. Most Bible students will be aware of the instructions of Isa 28:10 "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people." This is how God communicates His meaning to His people: V12 "To whom He said, 'This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest,' and 'This is the refreshing.' Yet they would not hear." So when they would not hear, did God make it easier for them to understand? No! God then used the same principle that would have enlightened them, to destroy them! V13 "But the word of the LORD was to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little," that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught."
Christ quoted this very scripture in Matt 13:10. These verses are a pointer to another prophecy: Isa 8:13 "The LORD Almighty is the One you are to regard as holy, He is the One you are to fear, He is the One you are to dread, and He will be a SANCTUARY; but for BOTH HOUSES of Israel He will be a STONE that causes men to stumble and a ROCK that makes them FALL. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a TRAP and a SNARE. Many of them will stumble; they will FALL and be BROKEN, they will be SNARED and CAPTURED. Bind up the TESTIMONY and seal up the law among My DISCIPLES. I will WAIT for the LORD, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in Him."
Notice clearly what this is saying! For both houses of Israel, that is Judah (the southern kingdom) and the house of Ephraim (the northern kingdom) 'He will be a STONE that causes men to stumble and a ROCK that makes them fall.' This STONE or ROCK is Christ (Dan 2:35, Eph 2:20).
Every sentence in Isa 8:13-17 could potentially take you on a wild ride of discovery to almost every page of the Bible if all the pointers and markers were fully explored, but of special interest here is 'Many of them will stumble; they will FALL and be BROKEN, they will be SNARED and CAPTURED. Bind up the TESTIMONY and seal up the LAW among My DISCIPLES.' God has deliberately allowed some of those who sought to follow this ROCK to fall and be broken, and snared and captured by the enemy (Matt 13:39). In fact, we will soon see that God planted some 'seed' in the very kingdom of Satan the devil for this purpose. Both the TESTIMONY and the LAW were to be bound in His DISCIPLES. This also leads us to another scripture - a warning! This is the continuation of the theme of these verses: Isa 8:20 "To the LAW and the TESTIMONY! If they do not speak according to this word they have no light of dawn [in them]." We will soon discover that this 'TESTIMONY' means PROPHECY, just as this verse implies (Rev 19:10).
In regard to 'TESTIMONY' David had this to say: Ps 78:1 "Give ear, O My people, incline your ears to the words of My mouth. I will open my mouth in a PARABLE, I will utter dark sayings of old." V5 "For He established a TESTIMONY in Jacob, and appointed a LAW in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. That the generation to come might know them...." NKJV (The NIV mistakenly translated the word 'testimony' as statutes - most other versions don't!) V67 "Then He rejected the tents of Joseph, He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but He chose the tribe of JUDAH, MOUNT ZION, which He loved. He built His SANCTUARY like the high mountains, like the earth which He established for ever. He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them."
Ah! you say, this was speaking of the old days! No, this is prophecy! Now notice which tribe and which LINE of that tribe receives the outpouring of the Spirit of grace and supplication: Zech 12:10 "And I will pour out on the House of DAVID and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son." Those whom God will use as shepherds are exactly described: V12 "...the clan of the house of David...the house of Nathan (David's son)...the house of Levi...the clan of Shimei (David's son) ...and all the rest of the clans (of David's sons)." It should be noted that the clan of the tribe of Levi is also included.
Do you see how one verse supplements another to produce a greater understanding? By using the 'pointers' that the Bible gives us throughout all its contents, we can follow the trail to discover all about any given subject. Unfortunately, this principle is rarely applied. Lazy and incompetent Bible students feel they have the right to assume the Bible's meaning. In the Churches of God during the 20th century, these shepherds have arrogantly and flagrantly violated this principle! The result is they have fallen backward into apostasy and error.
Yet the Apostles diligently followed this principle. They didn't assume that they had the right to guess God's intention, or to use human reasoning. They sought their guidance from the scriptures. From the human perspective, it could be assumed that these men, who had lived with Christ for 3½ years and been trained by Him, would have been authoritative enough to make important decisions. Instead we find that they sought Biblical authority on all issues. In the Book of Acts we have numerous examples of this. For instance, in the matter of a replacement for Judas Iscariot, there was a certain logic for replacing him from their ranks to ensure the 12 apostles continued. Instead of human reasoning, they went to the scriptures for guidance: Acts 1:15 "In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about one hundred and twenty) and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas...." V20 "For," said Peter, "it is written in the Book of Psalms, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no-one to dwell in it,' and 'May another take his place of leadership. Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time that Jesus was taken from us'"
So they decided to take a vote on who they wanted to join them in the apostleship - NO THEY DIDN'T! Lots were cast between two men who had been with Christ throughout His ministry, and God made the choice! This leads us to the next amazing principle of the Bible.
If you read through the Scripture that Peter quoted from in the Book of Psalms, it certainly seems to refer to Judas. But it doesn't refer to Christ. David is here described as the one who is betrayed. The tense he speaks in, is the first person, as if it was his experience. This is even more evident in other verses quoted from the Book of Psalms. But Peter clearly identified these verses as applying to Judas Iscariot and Christ! So what is the principle that Peter applied?
This was the principle taught by Christ Himself. Christ spoke in parables exclusively to the people, but sometimes to the disciples as well. And when He did speak in parables to the disciples they would begin to speak among themselves and say 'What does He mean?' Christ would then explain what He meant. But to the people He always spoke in parables: Matt 13:10 "The disciples came to Him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The KNOWLEDGE of the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.' In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."
This quote taken directly from the Book of Isaiah, ch.6, is telling Isaiah to take these very words to his people (V8-10). V11 "Then I said, "FOR HOW LONG, O Lord?" And He answered: "UNTIL the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, UNTIL the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, UNTIL the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will AGAIN be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the HOLY SEED will be the STUMP in the land." Some might claim that this prophecy has been fulfilled, but Christ said these words of Isa 6:8-10 were still in effect when He was on earth. So any fulfillment MUST occur after the time of Christ. Forty years after Christ, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the people decimated. Notice now the words 'it will AGAIN be laid waste'. When this happens - yet future, then will 'the HOLY SEED be the STUMP in the ground'.
The Bible explains the meaning of this! Daniel told Nebuchednezzar that he represented a great tree that would be cut down: Dan 4:23 "...Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the STUMP, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field." V26 "The command to leave the STUMP of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules." In the case of the stump that represented the King of Babylon, this stump is still there - even though Nebuchednezzar the man, was restored to his kingdom. The true ruler of Babylon was not! But he will be restored in the latter days. He will arise out of the earth (Rev 13:11).
In Isaiah's account, we find that this stump is the holy seed. This speaks of the time when the cities and the land 'will again be laid waste'. But God speaks of an event after this, in fact immediately after this: the city will be rebuilt! Jer 31:38 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "When this city will be rebuilt for Me from the Tower of Hananel to the corner gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. The whole valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. THE CITY WILL NEVER AGAIN BE UPROOTED OR DEMOLISHED." The Tower of Hananel stood at the NW corner of the Temple Mount. The Kidron Valley, the Corner Gate and the Horse Gate show us that the boundaries described are the Temple Mount. What the scriptures tell us is: The cities and the land will be 'laid waste', but the city of Jerusalem, and more particularly the Mount of Zion (the Temple Mount) will be rebuilt for God. Ezekiel 40 to 48 describe what is to be built there - and this building has never been built to this present day! When it is rebuilt it 'WILL NEVER BE UPROOTED OR DEMOLISHED.' The Temple will be rebuilt, though not as gloriously as the Temple built by Solomon, but it will be filled with glory: Hag 2:6-9 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And IN THIS PLACE I WILL GRANT PEACE,' declares the LORD Almighty."
It should be noted that Zerubbabel didn't build a temple at that time. What he built was a tabernacle after he had prepared the site. The Jewish nation are today speaking of building the THIRD temple. The first was built by Solomon and the second by Herod. The THIRD Temple will be built by the Levites but others will come from far away to help: Zech 6:15 "Those WHO ARE FAR AWAY will come and help to build the Temple of the LORD, and you will KNOW that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God." Beloved brethren in Christ - this is your challenge! You will only be there if you 'DILIGENTLY OBEY the LORD your God.' At the appropriate time, you will know what God requires of you. Notice that 'in this place' God says, 'I will grant peace.'
When the time comes, make sure that you are sincere! God's word is a two-edged sword. It can be for you or against you! Notice what happens when the Beast takes away the daily sacrifice in the Temple and abolishes the daily sacrifice: Dan 11:32 "With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are insincere will join them." You will, however, notice that at the moment when the abomination is set up, God instructs His true sheep to flee to the mountains east of Jerusalem. This will occur 1290 days after the daily sacrifice is taken away (Dan 12:11). So after the Temple is built, and after the daily sacrifice is taken away, and after 1290 days, and at the time the abomination is set up in the courtyard of the Temple, those who are in Judea will flee to the mountains to be protected by God at a place that He has prepared! God has told you in advance!
The words of Hag 2:6-9 also refer to events described in the Book of Revelation which set the time sequence. This is discussed in other articles.
Perhaps you think you would be more comfortable learning from some other group that preaches peace and all the good things you want to hear. Perhaps you think that if enough of you club together and pray earnestly, God will change the prophecies and spare you. DON'T BELIEVE IT! If you are not totally committed to God then you are against Him! (Matt 12:30). None of the prophets wanted to prophesy doom and gloom! ALWAYS it resulted in terrible persecution! But notice what Jeremiah said: Jer 20:7 "O LORD, you have [persuaded] me and I am [persuaded]; You overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, "I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name," HIS WORD IS IN MY HEART LIKE A BURNING FIRE, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot. I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side! Report him! Let's report him!" All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take revenge on him." But the LORD IS WITH ME LIKE A MIGHTY WARRIOR; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonour will never be forgotten. O LORD Almighty, You who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause."
The prophets that God called were men with 'fire in their bellies' (to use the modern vernacular) burning with zeal for the Almighty Creator God. They were not 'reeds shaken in the wind.' Christ said of John the Baptist - a type of the Elijah to come (one of the two endtime prophets), "What did you expect to see? A reed shaken in the wind?" John was no 'reed shaken in the wind'! He castigated the hypocritical religious leaders of the day, and finally took his stand against the 'fifth king' - Herod Antipas! This led to his death!
In Jerusalem today, everyone is speaking of the 'peace process.' All you hear is 'peace, peace' when there is no peace. Paul had something to say about this: 1Thess 5:3 "While people are saying, "Peace and safety", destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." The reference to 'labour pains on a pregnant woman' is a pointer to Isa 66:5-11 "Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word; "Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of My name, have said, 'Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!' Yet they will be put to shame. Hear the uproar from the CITY, hear the noise from the TEMPLE! It is the sound of the LORD repaying his enemies all they deserve. "Before SHE GOES INTO LABOUR, SHE GIVES BIRTH; before the pains come upon her, SHE DELIVERS A SON. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a COUNTRY be born in a day or a NATION be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is ZION in labour than she gives birth to her CHILDREN. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?" says your God. "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her."
When you hear the uproar in the CITY [Jerusalem] and the noise from the TEMPLE [in Jerusalem], you will know that this is the LORD 'repaying His enemies all they deserve!' To understand who these 'enemies' are, read Eze chapter 9 and notice the words 'and begin at My sanctuary' (V6).
This speaks of ZION (Jerusalem) giving birth. This is the nation of Judah - 'all you who love her'! Only the Jews have loved Jerusalem with a passion for thousands of years! This is the 'woman' that gave birth to a Son who was taken up to heaven (Rev 12:1, 4, 6, 13). Now she gives birth to her CHILDREN - and a COUNTRY - and a NATION!
Brethren in Christ, do you love God's Holy City, Jerusalem, with all your heart? Are you mourning over her? Are you outraged that the leaders in Israel today are conducting a 'peace process' with the ancient enemies of God - the Philistines? Do you favour Satan's evil brood over Christ's tribal brethren - the tribe of Judah? In the strongest terms: Be warned! You will find yourself fighting against God! Isa 62:1 "For ZION's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her SALVATION LIKE A BLAZING TORCH."
When God again chooses Zion (Zech 1:17, 2:12), at that time, the stump that was left in the ground will shoot to produce two branches, and these branches will be in Jerusalem. Zech 2:8, 4:11, 6:12 describes these two branches, and these scriptures point to Rev 11:4.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SECRETS
What does all this mean? Christ said that He spoke in parables so the people would not understand. He quoted from Isaiah. Isaiah was told that this lack of understanding would continue until Jerusalem was laid waste - AGAIN! Then when the holy seed arises from the stump that was planted in Jerusalem, and after Christ's departure, and also after Jerusalem has been laid waste AGAIN. "The KNOWLEDGE of the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven" will be revealed! The two prophets that will arise, who will be 'branches' - one from the tribe of Levi, and one from the tribe of Judah, will be established in Jerusalem. And it is they who will establish the HOLY SEED, and reveal 'The KNOWLEDGE of the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven.' For further information read the article 'The Two Endtime Prophets.' Rev 10:7 "But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to His SERVANTS THE PROPHETS."
The Apostle Paul spoke of these secrets to the Ephesians. Here he also refers to it as a mystery: Eph 1:9 "And He made known to us the MYSTERY of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, TO BE PUT INTO EFFECT WHEN THE TIMES WILL HAVE REACHED THEIR FULFILLMENT - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."
Be sure to understand what this is saying! God has made known this MYSTERY according to His will. These people tended to be more interested in Satan's so-called deep secrets (Rev 2:24). This MYSTERY of God is 'to be put into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment'. This fulfillment will be in the very latter days as Rev 10:7 reveals.
PAUL'S LETTER TO THE 7 CHURCHES
We will shortly be examining more details about Ephesus and the other Churches in the area of Asia. It's important to note that the letter to the Ephesians was written to all the seven Churches in Asia. In fact, the words 'in Ephesus' in Eph 1:1 don't appear in the early manuscripts. That the letter was intended for the Churches in Asia is evidenced by the messenger, Tychicus, who also delivered the letter to the Colossians with the instruction to read it to the Church in Laodicea (Eph 6:21, Col 4:7, 16). This letter also refers to another letter that was written to the Laodiceans but was never canonized.
THE FALSE PROPHETS
Now we know why Christ spoke in parables, and when the true meaning of these will be revealed - from the mouth of His SERVANTS THE PROPHETS! But what of the rest of the Bible? Hordes of 'prophets' have arisen who believe they understand selective prophecies. Most Christian religions put out booklets and articles that purport to explain books like Daniel and Revelation, for instance. Do they really understand?
Let's hear it from the real prophets - those who wrote the books of the Bible! Let's see what they have to say about prophecy, and compare it with what the fake prophets teach!
All the true prophets suffered for what they taught. Prophets were handpicked by God to do a tough job. One of the outstanding prophets, and one who suffered terribly, was Jeremiah. He spent 10 years in prison for prophesying of the disasters that God had decreed on the land and its inhabitants. He was a prophet in Jerusalem during the final days of the conquest of all the land of Judah by Nebuchednezzar. Like all the prophets, he had to contend with those who claimed to speak for God - that is, false prophets.
One of these FALSE prophets, a man called Hananiah, gave a public address in the presence of the priests and all the people: Jer 28:2 "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'I will break the yoke of the King of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD's house that Nebuchednezzar, King of Babylon, removed from here and took to Babylon. I will bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, King of Judah, and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,' declares the LORD, 'for I will break the yoke of the King of Babylon.'" This FALSE prophet became very specific in detail when he invoked God's name and authority. He even claimed that God would bring back Jehoiachin about whom Jeremiah had prophesied before he went into captivity: Jer 22:24 "As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "even if you, Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, King of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. I WILL hand you over to those who seek your life, those you fear - to Nebuchednezzar, King of Babylon, and to the Babylonians. I WILL hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country, where neither of you was born, and there you both WILL die. You will never come back to the land you long to return to." God is even more specific in V30 "This is what the LORD says: "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on throne of David or rule anymore in Judah." The word 'WILL' shows that this had not yet happened, but further proof is also found in Jer 24:1 and 25:1.
Now the false prophet Hananiah had seen these things occur, in perfect accord with Jeremiah's prophecy, but still he chose to lie in God's name! So Jeremiah replied: Jer 28:5 "Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD. He said, "Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the LORD"s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied WAR, DISASTER and PLAGUE against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies PEACE will be recognised as one truly sent by the LORD ONLY IF HIS PREDICTION COMES TRUE."
Shortly after this, God gave Jeremiah a message for Hananiah: V15 "Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, "Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore, this is what the LORD says: 'I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you preached rebellion against the LORD.' In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died."
God gives us a clear message on who will prophesy in His name! In Jeremiah's time a certain man decided that he, too, wanted to be a prophet, and have his own little support group: Jer 26:20 "(Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD; he prophesied the same things against this city and land as Jeremiah did. When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword, and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.)"
And just so the clear message of this is understood, God makes the distinction between those who try to emulate God's prophets within their own organisation, and those who support God's true prophets: V24 "Furthermore, Ahikam son of Shaphan SUPPORTED Jeremiah, and so he was NOT handed over to the people to be put to death." Be sure you understand the distinction that God makes here!
God makes it very clear that the immediate future is not going to be happy and joyous! What is about to descend on this world will cause men's hearts to fail for fear. You will be caught up in the middle of it, and don't let anyone tell you differently. Hear now what God says: Jer 23:16 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all those who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear His word? Who has listened and heard His word? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come [the latter days - NKJV] you will understand it clearly."
Yes, you will understand in the latter days the effects of the lies that you have been listening to. Whether or not you start listening to God's word is up to you. But be warned that the great storm of the LORD is soon to cascade around the heads of those who have taught lies, and whom God calls 'the wicked'; be sure that you are not one of them!
But God has more to say in this same chapter about the false prophets in these latter days: V21 "I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds."
God's word continues in V25 "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in My name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream! How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make My people forget My name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has My word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not MY WORD LIKE FIRE," declares the LORD, "and LIKE A HAMMER THAT BREAKS A ROCK IN PIECES?"
This is not what you have been hearing from the false prophets. But you did hear it from Christ from the many warnings that He included in His sayings! He spoke of these things, but most have chosen to ignore it, believing that it didn't, and wouldn't, apply to them. The true Gospel is a hard message but with a glorious end. When the MYSTERY of the Kingdom of God is revealed, it will bring persecution from all quarters. Christ said so! But this has not happened yet in this century! Why? Because no-one has spoken according to God's word! All you have been hearing are lies, distortions and fabrications!
In the article, 'Who is the Flock Marked for Slaughter?' you will learn that God raised up a man as a shepherd - a worthless shepherd who would devour the flock, tearing off their hoofs so they couldn't leave! (See Zech 11:15-17). This article identifies this person and explains why God called him. This flock believed this organisation to be the one and only Church of God because there seemed to be no other alternative. Many who sat in the congregation for years and listened to the woefully inadequate explanations - and contradictions of teachings in relation to the Bible, were baffled! How could this be the Work of God if they can't understand God's Word?
Their 'smoke and mirrors' explanation of Rev 3:7-13 seemed to indicate that they were the Church of Philadelphia. Even though the Bible is speaking of a Church that was IN Philadelphia, that existed in the area of modern Turkey today; they insist that this Church came into existence in the 20th Century! There were probably several hundred Churches in the world at the time that the Book of Revelation was delivered to John: Col 1:6 "All over the world this Gospel is producing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth." Yet the message the Father gave to His Son to pass on to John spoke of only seven of them. All of these were in Asia Minor where Satan's throne was! (Rev 2:13). Why would the Father do this? In addition to this, we learn from the scriptures that five of these Churches quickly became corrupted.
These Churches were established between the autumn of 52AD and the spring of 55AD by the Apostle Paul. He spent a little over two years in Ephesus, but was forbidden by the Spirit to go into Asia in the region of the other six Churches to preach: Acts 16:6 "Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia." Later, while at the harbour city of Ephesus, he met 12 men who had been baptised by John the Baptist. On learning that they had not received the Holy Spirit, Paul baptised them again, and when he laid hands on them they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). These 12 disciples became the shepherds of the province of Asia and the seven Churches (Acts 19:9). Paul spent two years in Ephesus teaching these men, and others, daily. Some ancient manuscripts suggest that he taught them for 5 hours each day. Obviously, they were well-trained in the knowledge of the Bible.
Two years later, sometime in 57AD, Paul again visited Southern Asia at the harbour city of Miletus. Since it was only 30 miles from Ephesus, he sent for the elders of Ephesus. Acts 20:17 "From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the Church." Paul made some very interesting comments to them.
This is what he said: V18 "When they arrived, he said to them: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace. Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the Kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I DECLARE TO YOU TODAY that I AM INNOCENT OF THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole WILL of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be SHEPHERDS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, SAVAGE WOLVES WILL COME IN AMONG YOU and WILL NOT SPARE THE FLOCK. Even from YOUR OWN NUMBER MEN WILL ARISE and DISTORT THE TRUTH in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM. So be ON YOUR GUARD! Remember that for three years I NEVER STOPPED WARNING EACH OF YOU night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which CAN build you up and give you an inheritance AMONG THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work WE MUST HELP THE WEAK, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
There are many strong reference pointers here to other passages in the Bible that explain the meaning of many of these comments. One of the most obvious is Zech 11:15-17. These verses in Zechariah also point to Isa 42:18-19. This whole section contains unusually extreme warnings about savage wolves coming among them, not sparing the flock, some of these very men would arise and distort the truth. Paul told them that the grace of God COULD build them up and COULD give them a place among those who are sanctified - implying that they were not! But the strongest statement was when he said 'I DECLARE TO YOU..' and this is what he said: "Therefore, I DECLARE TO YOU TODAY that I AM INNOCENT OF THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN." This statement was clearly distinguishing between Paul and them. He didn't say 'WE are innocent' but 'I am innocent'! And who is guilty? This is what Christ said: Matt 23:35 "And so upon you will come ALL the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come on this generation." And who was He speaking to? The very seed of Satan! His evil brood - his generation! John 8:43-44 "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him." This evil BROOD, this evil GENERATION, this OFFSPRING of Satan was present in the religious leaders of Christ's day. Their role was to corrupt Christ - but they failed miserably!
Paul's reference to the evil generation 'that was guilty of the blood of all men' shows clearly that he knew it was present among these elders of Ephesus. Paul was telling them that from their own ranks would arise those who are guilty of the blood of ALL men! Just as the upper echelons of Jewish religious leaders were totally corrupted by Satan, so also are many of those who lived in Satan's domain.
Those in Ephraim, who have been at the forefront of deceiving God's people were correct in one thing - they were able to recognize that the spirit of these Churches truly did reach the United States of America. Unlike the ancient tribes of Israel who had 400 years of servitude, the 'lost' ten tribes of Israel have had nearly 400 years of liberty - freedom to devise every imagination of their own minds. Like the 390 years under the judges, these tribes have done what seemed right in their own eyes.
REWARD FOR YOUR SERVICE
Back in the days of Abraham, before there was any tribes of Israel, God told him that his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own and enslaved, for 400 years (Gen 15:12-13). Then in V14 "But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards you will come out with great possessions." For their period of servitude God would reward them 'with great possessions'. Then we find an extraordinary statement in V16: "In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
God was not yet ready to deal with the Amorites because their sin 'has not yet reached full measure.' This sounds like God was waiting for them to reach a point when He could bring the axe down on them in judgment. Why would God do such a thing? After all, Christ came to plead with everyone to accept his Gospel and be saved, didn't He? NO HE DIDN'T! The Bible tells us why Christ came: 1John 3:8 "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared WAS TO DESTROY THE DEVIL'S WORK." It should be noted that the one who wrote the messages to the seven Churches in Asia, the Apostle John, also recorded this!
Now you can present all you fluffy arguments and your sanctimonious platitudes to the contrary, and claim that God's only concern is to save you and whip you off to a place of safety while He deals with all the baddies - but you would be totally wrong and horribly deceived! You, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have been called as cannon-fodder to be used in the great battle against the forces of evil in the universe. This is God's primary concern! You will be greatly rewarded for your service - even as the tribes of Israel were. God established laws right from the beginning, and like the righteous King that He is, He rules by 'rule of law' and He judges by 'rule of law'. God doesn't make up laws as He goes along - His laws are eternal, and ALL will be judged according to those laws.
Let's now set this principle in stone: Isa 24:21 "In that day the LORD will punish the POWERS in the heavens above and the KINGS on the earth below. THEY will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days." When will this happen? Next verse: "The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously."
You've sat for years listening to the 'whoopee-cushion' tricksters preaching their 'Dr Feelgood' sermons, and making you feel all 'warm and fuzzy' inside. You've believed them when they've said that they would lead you to a place of safety if you are really good - and obedient to them!! You've anticipated boarding the bus and going off to this place to await God's judgment on the 'wicked' Laodiceans and the rest of the world. Now it's time to face reality! Let's look at a scripture that never gets quoted by these lying shysters: Isa 57:1-2 "The RIGHTEOUS perish, and no-one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no-one understands that the RIGHTEOUS are taken away to be SPARED from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they LIE IN DEATH." Notice the next verse which is speaking of Israel's 'watchmen' (Isa 56:10). V3 "But you [Israel's watchmen (plural)] come here, you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! Whom are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars?" More about this later.
The Bible speaks of a period of judgment just prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of God. The description of this is an awesome event. Dan 7:9 "As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. The throne was was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The COURT was seated and the BOOKS were opened." Here is our Awesome God - our heavenly Father - presiding over a court! This is the Mighty Being before whom Christ stands and receives His Kingdom (V13-14). David spoke in glowing terms, many times, of this Awesome Being. Notice what he says: Ps 89:7 "In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared. He is more awesome than those who surround Him." It's hard for the human mind to comprehend how awesome God is, or to understand the magnitude of the scene described by Daniel. But this Mighty Being, the Awesome Creator, presides over a COURT of hundreds of millions of other beings - to JUDGE!
RULERS IN THE HEAVENLY REALM
And who is being judged? It's speaking of the king or beast of Babylon that arises after the ten kings of the first beast (V24). What is the verdict? V26 "But the court will sit, and HIS power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever." Something is wrong here! This can't be right! Would the Great and Awesome God of the Universe sit in a COURT, with millions of angels, to JUDGE AN ORDINARY MAN? Utter insanity! Of course He wouldn't! God is not concerned about any puny man. 'What is man that you are mindful of him?' and 'The nations are a drop in the bucket' clearly describe humanity's stature with God. God loves humanity, but they rank lower than angels and are not God's primary concern! God's primary concern is: Isa 24:21 "In that day the LORD will punish the POWERS in the heavens above and the KINGS on the earth below." And the kings that are referred to here are not puny human kings - they are the real rulers (Eph 6:12) of the nations - five of which had already fallen when John recorded the Book of Revelation! (Rev 17:9-10). Of these real rulers, Paul gives us more information: Eph 3:8 "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given to me; to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of the mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His INTENT was that now, THROUGH THE CHURCH, the manifold wisdom of God should be MADE KNOWN TO THE RULERS AND AUTHORITIES IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let's try to get a real handle on this! Paul speaks of the 'administration of the mystery' which has been kept hidden by God. He says the Church is to make KNOWN this 'MANIFOLD WISDOM' to the 'RULERS and AUTHORITIES in the HEAVENLY REALMS'. Christ Himself set a precedent for this after His resurrection: 1Pet 318 "For Christ died for sins, once for ALL, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through which also He went and preached to the SPIRITS IN PRISON who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built." Christ preached to demon spirits who have been in prison for thousands of years. Christ died once for ALL sin! When Christ died, for a brief moment of time the world was sinless! ALL sin was forgiven by this divine act! This is further described in Col 2:15 "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in [Himself]." This is why He preached to the demons in prison - to let them know! He had paid the divine penalty for ALL sins, including theirs, and having done this, had qualified for rulership of everything that has been created! 1Cor 15:24 "Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father AFTER He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For He "has put everything under His feet". Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under Him, it is clear that this does not include God Himself, who put everything under Christ. When He has done this, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him that put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all."
The Apostle Paul further clarifies this: Eph 1:17 "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, MAY give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you MAY know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart MAY be enlightened in order that you MAY know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when he raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed ALL things UNDER HIS FEET and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills everything in every way."
Paul said that he kept asking God, that He MAY give these people the Spirit of wisdom and revelation! He also prayed that their eyes MAY be enlightened [or opened]. Paul could see the need for these gifts, but it seems that God did not intend to impart them to these people - at that time! His letter was to the Churches in Asia - the seven Churches of Revelation.
God is not a 'hanging judge'. He does everything according to LAW! When God turns judgment over to the jury, the saints will sit in judgment and will judge these angels (Dan 7:27), and notice the words 'under the whole heaven.' See also 1Cor 6:3 "Do you not know that we will judge angels?"
Christ has already preached to those in the Abyss (prison). Whether they listened to Christ or not is evidenced by their conduct, described in Rev 9, when they are released. They swarm out of the Abyss like locusts and torment everyone!
But those demons who are still in the world, and who rule in high places, still don't understand God's Word - believe it or not! Satan the devil once ruled over Babylon and Tyre - and he will again! The Bible tells us that he was NOT wiser than Daniel! Eze 28:2 "In the pride of your heart you say, "I am a god, I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you?" Indeed, there are many secrets hidden from these demon rulers and principalities. Whatever you may have believed in the past, Satan and his demons don't understand the scriptures! The reason is they don't have God's Holy Spirit! If you think it's possible to understand God's Word without the Holy Spirit - then dream on! You have learnt nothing! But the time will soon come when these supernatural potentates will understand! Wholly and completely - just as the whole world will! For the first time in the history of the world, everything will be revealed. For the first time in his life, Satan will realize that it's HE that is on trial, and his destruction and death is imminent (Rev 12:12). This will trigger the events of Rev 12 when Satan and his demons will attempt an assault on God's throne. Whatever you might have believed in the past, this will be no transparent event! The whole world will believe that its a massive nuclear attack from somewhere. Whole cities will be demolished, forests flattened and people will die by the million. This will be Satan's second great fall from heaven (Luke 10:18). The Apostle John takes up the story in the Book of Revelation of a vivid description of subsequent events. The magnitude of these will make Satan's fall seem like a stroll in the park. Destruction of the earth will be so complete that nothing of value will be left. All cities will be gone! Animal life all wiped out, and the trees and grass burnt up. So complete will be the destruction that God will need to re-create the animal life and renew the whole face of the earth (Ps 104:29-30).
All the latter-day events will be triggered by the fulfillment of Eph 3:8-11. The implications of divine truth will be a bombshell to Satan and his generals. They've believed that the whole plan of God was to produce a family from the human ranks. Their whole objective was to thwart that plan. The sudden realization that God's whole plan was to destroy HIM and HIS DEMONS (1John 3:8) by 'rule of law' and to reward those who have been his servants in this plan, will leave him shell-shocked! When the realization dawns on him that he has condemned himself, he will go out like a wild animal to destroy. He will curse God and utter the most appalling blasphemies (Rev 13:5, Dan 11:36). He will realize that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by the total destruction of humanity.
Satan's sneering attitude to God, and his lack of regard for anything God says, has resulted in him being unable to retain knowledge and to think logically. Christ explained how God has concealed His knowledge in a mystery or secret: Matt 13:10 "The disciples came to Him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah..."
God has not entrusted His truth to anyone except the holy seed. The holy seed today is the offspring of God. Christ is the Son of God - the Holy Seed! The holy seed is the Body of that Being and therefore holy and therefore the seed of God. In days of old, the prophets had the Seed of God in that they possessed the very essence of God - His Holy Spirit. They too, were the holy seed. And here is one of the great mysteries of the Bible - the prophets of old spoke in parables. On the 10th day of the 10th month in the year 588BC, Nebuchednezzar beseiged Jerusalem. On this day, God told Ezekiel to tell the House of Judah a PARABLE (Eze 24:3). And again in Eze 17:2. Many times, God had told him to act out a parable rather than speak it. Around 90% of everything that Ezekiel recorded was a parable. Even his hearers understood this! (Eze 20:49). Although the prophets warned of imminent disasters, they most frequently spoke of things in the distant future. And nearly always in parable form. This was Christ's way, and it has been God's way since the dawn of man's existence. Even in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:15).
IT'S SATAN WHO IS DECEIVED!
Why would this be? Perhaps if God had been up-front with humanity, things would have been different! But then, perhaps not! God certainly disguised His truth but not to delude or deceive humanity. God always stressed that those who set their hearts to serve God would understand. He told them to seek and they will find. This has always been so! God also knew that Satan would never seek to find His way. And this is the reason that God hid His truth - SO SATAN WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND! Christ spoke of these matters, but with the precursor that we are to be careful with God's truth: Matt 7:6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw your pearls before pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
Does this include prophecy? Doubly so! Notice the words 'knock and the door will be opened to you' and 'to him who knocks, the door will be opened'. This refers to prophecy! Rev 4:1 "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you WHAT MUST TAKE PLACE AFTER THIS." This verse follows immediately after the two chapters describing the seven Churches in Asia. In the parable about the Church in Philadelphia, we find a reference to an open door that no-one can shut. This open door in heaven is clearly describing the revealing of prophecy. Similarly, the real meaning of the 'testimony of Jesus' is the 'spirit of prophecy': Rev 19:10 "For the TESTIMONY OF JESUS is the SPIRIT OF PROPHECY.' We also find that the OFFSPRING of the 'woman' in Jerusalem is immediately targeted after Satan tries to destroy this 'woman.' This offspring 'hold to the TESTIMONY OF JESUS.'
We also find a reference to those 'who claim to be Jews' in Rev 3:9 "I will make those who are of the synogogue of Satan, who SAY they are Jews though they are not but are liars - I will make them come and worship at your feet."
Let's now splice this all together! Firstly, why would they claim to be Jews when they are not? Obviously, the open door that is placed before these true followers of God is an attraction for these liars who claim to be Jews! The reason they want to masquerade as Jews is because they want to understand prophecy! Logic alone shows that those they try to emulate ARE Jews! But let's go to the Bible for the explanation!
Isa 48:1-2, 6 "Listen to this, O house of Jacob, you WHO ARE CALLED BY THE NAME OF ISRAEL and come from the LINE OF JUDAH, you who take oaths in the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel - but not in truth or righteousness - you WHO CALL YOURSELVES CITIZENS OF THE HOLY CITY and rely on the God of Israel - the LORD Almighty is His name: I foretold the former things long ago, My mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass." V6 "You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them? From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.' You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ear has not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For MY OWN NAME'S SAKE, I delay my wrath; for the sake of My praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have tested you, though not as silver; I have TESTED you in the FURNACE OF AFFLICTION. For MY OWN NAME'S SAKE, for MY OWN NAME'S SAKE, I do this. How can I let Myself be defamed? I WILL NOT YIELD MY GLORY TO ANOTHER."
The threefold reference to 'MY OWN NAME'S SAKE' refers to CHRIST THE SON OF GOD! - and those who bear His name - CHRISTIANS! This also points to John 21:15-18 where Christ told PETER to 'FEED MY SHEEP' a total of THREE TIMES. More details later.
This is God's declaration to the people of the Holy City - those of the line of Judah! God will tell them of things that He has recently created. He has TESTED them in the furnace of affliction. There is no-one else on earth that has been TESTED as the Jews have! And all the time the world thought they were being punished! Because they have been through all this testing and emerged faithful to the God of Israel, God will now entrust them with the true riches - the whole truth of God's SECRETS and the TESTIMONY OF CHRIST! Notice the words 'I WILL NOT YIELD MY GLORY TO ANOTHER.' This leads us to another important principle in the Bible: 'With stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people' (Isa 28:11). The word 'YIELD' used here is from the Hebrew word 'nathan'. This is also a Hebrew name which means 'God has given'. An important prophet of the Bible had this name. This was the man that King David consulted about the building of the Temple, and he was the prophet through whom God instructed David of His plans for the Temple (2Sam 7 - Read the whole chapter - it's very interesting). Nathan was the one who, with Zadok the priest, ensured that Solomon was the heir to the throne (1Kings 1:7-30). Nathan was also the chronicler of the reigns of David and Solomon and the historical records of other nations (1Chron 29:29, 2Chron 9:29). David named one of his sons Nathan (IChron 14:4). This son is also named in Zech 12:12, as one of the clans that will be present at the great repentance of the House of David and Levi in the very endtime, just prior to their involvement in the greatest work of history. Of further interest to those who are truly God's faithful servants is Eze 48:11 which makes mention of Zadok the priest in connection with the new Temple yet to be built (Eze 40-48). The full implication of all these things concerning Nathan and Zadok cannot be expanded here; it would detract, somewhat, from the theme of this article. Many of you will soon be granted the Spirit of Prophecy and then you will understand. The main point is, that when God does 'give His glory to another' it will be those described in Zech 12:10-14. And from them the light will shine into all the world! Be sure to read this!
THE ROLE OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH
Of the seven Churches mentioned in Rev 2 and 3, only two of these were found to be without fault, and both were troubled by those who claimed to be Jews: Rev 2:8, 9 "To the angel of the Church in Smyrna write: ....I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan." So only the Churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia emerged faithful and obedient. All the rest were corrupted. The 'synagogue of Satan' in this parable means the 'enemy of the Body of Christ' just as the 'synagogue of Satan' destroyed the physical body of Christ.
Even from early days, Satan desired to have Peter to sift as wheat (Luke 22:31). What does this mean? The nations of Israel were sifted like wheat, but not a grain of them would fall to the ground (Amos 9:9). God intended all of Israel to be transported to the lands where He would settle them. Satan wanted Peter to corrupt him and to send him into all the world, and plant him among the mountains of Israel. God refused! But He did plant seven Churches in Satan's domain. The spirit of these Churches filtered through to Ephraim, the home of the lost ten tribes. For the purpose of all prophecy, Ephraim ( the U.S. today) is the lost ten tribes (Jer 7:15). And for the record the United States is not Manasseh! Nor is there anything in the Bible to suggest that it is.
The Bible is a storeroom of knowledge - true knowledge! And this brings us to yet another principle. Never, never, never believe anyone that would convince you of a principle that cannot be proven from the Bible! Take nothing for granted! If it's claimed to be a point of doctrine and it cannot be proven from the Bible - reject it! Peter said of Paul's writings, that some things were hard to understand. From time to time, some of the things in these writings may be hard to understand. Should this happen, do what Jacob did when his only prophet son Joseph came to him with a dream: Gen 37:11 "His brothers were jealous of him, but HIS FATHER KEPT THE MATTER IN MIND." When Christ was speaking of the treasures of the Kingdom of God, He concluded by saying this: Matt 13:52 "He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom NEW TREASURES AS WELL AS OLD." Christ also said: Matt 9:17 "Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
God is raising up a new work that will be used to preserve, ultimately, the old and the new. MANY new things will be brought out of the storehouse - things you have never begun to understand! The same principle is explained in Matt 12:35 "The good man brings things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will give account on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:12-15) for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." And speaking of condemnation, Christ had this to say, just a few verses back in V32 "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." If you have God's Holy Spirit, and you reject knowledge that the Holy Spirit has led you to understand - and which you have proven from God's Word, and decide instead to continue to believe the enemies of Christ - then you are doomed! Flat out doomed, now and forever! Be careful with your decisions! The double-edged sword of Christ that comes out of His mouth (Rev 1:16) is the testimony of Jesus, but this sword will slay for you or it will slay you!
The time will come when those who want to preserve their positions of authority will approach God's servants, the prophets, to enquire of them - just as the Scribes and Pharisees did of Christ. God says He will answer them directly: Eze 14:6 "Therefore say to the House of Israel.....When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling-block before his face and then goes to a prophet to enquire of me, I the LORD WILL ANSWER THAT MAN AND MAKE HIM AN EXAMPLE AND A BYWORD. Then YOU WILL KNOW that I am the LORD."
Returning again to Eph 3:8-11 and its explanation: In his letter to the seven Churches (the Book of Ephesians), Paul said it was God's intent to make this known THROUGH THE CHURCH: "the manifold wisdom of God should be MADE KNOWN TO THE RULERS AND AUTHORITIES IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS." These Churches didn't do this! Instead the 'rulers and authorities of the heavenly realm' have made known to the Church what they wanted them to believe! They listened to Satan's so-called 'deep secrets' (Rev 2:24). This was their great commission and they failed! They don't even understand what the 'manifold wisdom of God' is! They think this wisdom means getting themselves 'saved'. This is what the 'rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms' wants them to believe. They want Christianity to be unprepared for the coming holocaust, so that they will be outraged at the horror of it all and accuse God - or even curse God. Christians today are living in a world of fantasy - like a drug-induced stupor! How smug, how self-sufficient they have become.
Notice the only words that appear, verbatim, in all the messages to the Churches: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the CHURCHES.' Christ used these words repeatedly: 'He who has an ear, let him hear' to indicate that He was speaking a PARABLE! And that's what these seven messages are to the CHURCHES! THEY ARE PARABLES! All that was said in these messages became the legacy of Satan's corruption within his realm. And this 'wrong spirit' was carried into the world to infiltrate Christianity. To a greater or lesser degree, all of these Church attributes exist today.
There is no Church of Sardis today; nor a Church of Philadelphia! The Bible speaks of the Church that was IN the city of Sardis and IN the city of Philadelphia. We will shortly review the wide use of parables in the Old Testament and bring this whole thing into focus.
JUDGMENT OF THE HARLOT
Continuing the theme of the Great Court of the book of Daniel: The king or beast that the court will judge and condemn, and whose power will be taken away for ever is Satan the Devil. This is the great Harlot that ruled over all the evil kingdoms, five had already fallen, and one still existed at the time of John. The final king is the King of Babylon and the Great Harlot has total control of him. She rides him to destruction! She has killed her own people (Isa 14:19-20).
The Bible describes two beasts that will arise in the endtime. One from the sea and the other from the earth. The first has the dragon's power, throne and great authority (Rev 13:3) - that's why the dragon or Great Harlot rides this beast - because the Great Harlot is the power behind the throne! The second beast that arises from the earth has all the authority of the first beast.
Just as the City of Zion represents Christ - so does the city of Babylon represent Satan the devil. Rev 17:18 "The city you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth." In V5 God names this city as Babylon the Great. Again and again throughout the Old and New Testaments, in all the prophets, this city is identified and named! It's the place where the despot Nimrod built the Tower of Babel (from where it gets its name. It was formerly called Shinar - Gen 11:1-9). It's the city on the Euphrates River. It's the place where many of God's prophets arose (Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and others). It's the place where the great stump was left bound with iron and brass. It's also the place where the Great Harlot is to be set in her place (Zech 5:6-11). It's the city that will be violently destroyed, crushed and buried - never to be found again! And it's also the city that Saddam Hussein has now rebuilt and has opened to tourists. One of its features is the ancient throne room of Nebuchednezzar. Yes, this city that the FALSE prophets prophesied would never be rebuilt - has been rebuilt! They used this prophecy as one of the 'Seven Proofs of the Bible'. So which city do the false prophets say it is? Rome! Will you believe God or the false prophets? Be sure to read the articles that cover this subject for a more thorough explanation.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES
What of the seven Churches in Asia that are mentioned in the Book of Revelation? Why were the Apostles forbidden contact with them after Paul initially established the Church in Ephesus? All the answers are found in the dialogue of Paul when he spoke to the elders at Miletus.
Secular history however, provides some more insight. As loathe as the writer is to quote anyone in relation to the meaning of the Bible, in matters of historical record, historians do provide some reliability from ancient writings and archeological discovery. This is true of the Church that lived in, and around, Jerusalem. Those of you that have a long-standing relationship with the WCG will be aware that they taught that the Essenes were undesirables who appeared as vagabonds, and were contemptible because of what appeared to be a form of stoicism among them. The WCG rejected any suggestion that they could have been God's true people because they lived communally and had everything in common. The Essene communes were in some ways similar to the concept adopted in the nation of Israel today.
The WCG chose lengthy discourse to mitigate against them, particularly in the matter relating to the description given of Peter and the Jerusalem community of true brethren in Acts 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. ALL THE BELIEVERS WERE TOGETHER AND HAD EVERYTHING IN COMMON. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Later, the Apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians for emulating the brethren at Jerusalem: 1Thess 2:13 "And we thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe. For you, brothers, became IMITATORS of God's CHURCHES IN JUDEA, which are in Christ Jesus. You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those Churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last." The meaning of these last two sentences show that the traditional Jewish leaders had lost their power and influence, paving the way for true Christianity to be well-received in Jerusalem by the Jewish people.
WHO AND WHAT WERE THE ESSENES?
It's clear from many sources that the Essenes were the keepers of the Qumran scrolls - the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls. John Bright in his book 'A History of Israel' has this to say about them: P405: 'Finally, there were sectarian groups such as the Essenes, who lived in eschatological tension awaiting the imminent consummation. The sect of Qumran, from which have come the Dead Sea Scrolls, was almost certainly Essene. It is not our place to enter into a discussion of the subject here. Like the Pharisees, the Essenes presumably continued the Hasidic tradition. Their opposition to the Hasmonaeon priest-kings was, however, irreconcilable. They seem to have drawn their strength from members of the ZADOKITE PRIESTHOOD, and lay elements of apocalytic leanings associated with them, who regarded the Hasmonaeon priesthood as illegitimate and apostate. At some time, probably in the last third of the second century, they withdrew in the face of opposition from Jerusalem, and from participation in the Temple cult, and took refuge in the wilderness of Judea, where they pursued a quasi-monastic existence in preparation for the impending end. It was, apparently, among the Essenes that he Jewish apocalytic tradition was carried forward, and much of its literature produced. They regarded themselves as the people of the NEW COVENANT; they had their own peculiar interpretation of the law, their peculiar religious calendar, and they were pledged to a strict discipline which was rigorously enforced. They awaited the imminent end of history's drama, the outbreak of the final struggle between light and darkness, GOD AND EVIL - which would also involve a holy war on earth in which they expected to participate. Convinced that all prophecy was being fulfilled in their day, they commenced upon various Biblical books to show that this was so. The importance of Essenian belief for understanding the background of the New Testament thought is a subject to itself.' End quote.
There are a number of important points to be gleaned from this excerpt. The Essenes ties to the Hasidimic tradition is the first. The Hasidim were known as 'the pious, the loyal ones' who were deeply devoted to God. They opposed the Hasmonaeon tradition of appointing kings and priests who were not of the line of David (Herod the Great was of Edomite stock, and the Jews never let him forget it), and the line of Zadok, respectively.
The Essenes eventually fled from Jerusalem across the mountains to Qumran - an area on the Dead Sea directly EAST of Jerusalem.
The reference to the Apocalytic tradition and the origins that are attributed to the Essenes, suggests that the Apostle John wrote the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) in close association with them. Tradition has it that John died in Asia, among the seven Churches there after, his exile on the Island of Patmos. But tradition also describes another 'Apostle' John who lived in this region and suggests that the two have been confused in historical writings. Significantly, Rev 2:2 says, in relation to the Ephesians "..that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not.."
Of greatest importance are the words; 'They regarded themselves as the people of the NEW COVENANT'. This shows that they were not traditionalist Jews. They held to the teachings of the New Covenant. What is more - they understood that the final great battle was to be fought between the forces of light and darkness - and specifically between God and evil. The words 'darkness' and 'evil' being specific Bible references to Satan and his brood.
Their habit of searching the scriptures for details of prophecy rather than fabricating their own ideas, was as unique then as it is today. The very act of mentioning this suggests that John Bright didn't believe it to be the common practice of the day. And indeed, escatologists today are not interested in all Bible prophecy, but only that which they can manipulate to strengthen their own views. Around 90% of all Bible prophecy is ignored by these people, as being irrelevant to our time! Hardly a 'Christian' practice when one considers what Christ had to say: Matt 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." What's more, one of the great prophets wrote one of the great prophetic books many years later - the Book of Revelation! So any suggestion that Christ had indeed fulfilled all prophecy is not consistent with the content of this book, which speaks of many things from the ancient prophets, including Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zechariah and more! And nor did Christ give any suggestion that He had fulfilled all prophecy, but only those things that related directly to His first appearance: Luke 24:25 "He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the scriptures CONCERNING HIMSELF.""
And finally, John Bright stresses the importance of Essenian belief for understanding the background to the New Testament. Although in no way a fan or supporter of these people Bright recognizes the importance of them in matters leading to N.T. understanding. There is no other group visible in the historical record to whom this could be said. Apart from the few historical and scriptural scrolls salvaged by the Jewish Historian Josephus, the only group known to have preserved libraries of the ancient writings at the time of Jerusalem's destruction were the Essenes. And the preservation of these fragile scrolls was aided by the environment of the harsh, salty area in which they were concealed - close to the Dead Sea. The great volume of these scrolls shows that it was no rash or hasty decision to preserve these, but a carefully planned and executed program to ensure that they survived the 2,000 years of burial.
MORE ABOUT THE ESSENES
During the 3½ year ministry of Christ, there were three distinct groups who were prominent both spiritually and politically. These were the Scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was these three who dominated the religious scene in Jerusalem and the surrounding Judea. They were the ones who continued to challenge Christ and were most vocal in attempting to discredit Him.
Also existing in the Palestine area was another group that are little known, and are not mentioned directly in the New Testament. These were the Essenes. Their known history goes back some 200 years before Christ and are mentioned by various historians as still existing 200 years or more afterwards in the Palestine region. Very little is known about them; they were not a high-profile religious organization.
Josephus states that the breastplate of the priests of the temple was called Essen, which in the Greek language signifies the 'Oracle.' (Antiquities, 3:7:5). The Essen or breastplate was circular in shape and exactly filled the void of the Priest's Ephod which had a large circular opening on the chest area. It was on this Essen that the 12 names of the sons of Israel were written. Also the Urim and Thummin were imbedded into the Essen, which were specifically positioned over Aaron's heart (Ex 28:29-30).
The number of Essenes that existed at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 69-70 AD, was said, by Josephus, to be 4,000 men. Presumably, about 7,000 men and women in total. Josephus confesses to having a great admiration for these people.
They had genuine deep affection for each other (Jos. Wars 2:8:2), they despised riches, they rarely married, but did not deny the fitness of marriage. They diligently studied the scriptures, taking great pains to understand all principles and prophecy. They acknowledged that all governments were appointed by God and exercised great fidelity towards the rulers of the nation. They were diligent Sabbath-keepers; always ensuring that food was cooked on the preparation day preceding the Sabbath.
"They are long-lived also, insomuch that many of them lived above a hundred years, by means of the simplicity of their diet; nay, as I think, by means of the regular course of life they observe also. They condemn the miseries of life, and are above pain, by the generosity of their mind. And as for death, if it will be for their glory, they esteem it better than living always; and indeed our war with the Romans gave abundant evidence what great souls they had in their trials, wherein, although they were tortured and distorted, burnt and torn to pieces, and went through all kinds of instruments of torment, that they might be forced to blaspheme their legislator, or to eat what was forbidden them, yet they could not be made to either of them, no, nor once to flatter their tormentors, or to shed a tear; but they smiled in their very pains, and laughed to scorn who inflicted the torments upon them, and resigned their souls [lives] with great alacrity, as expecting to receive them again."(Jos. Wars 2:8:10)
They were also greatly respected for their gift of prophecy. There are a number of recorded prophecies that were fulfilled, and which were predicted by the Essenes. One of these involved Herod the Great, who was told as a small child while on the way to school that he would be King of the Jews. Herod dismissed it as fanciful nonsense, but because of the intensity with which the prophecy was delivered by the Essene, he remembered it. The Essene struck him on the backside and told him that as he will remember the slap so will he remember the prophecy (Jos. Antiquities 15:10:5).
Many years later, when the events of his life turned favourably, and he became king, Herod send for the man and reminded him of the prophecy which he still remembered.
Many years before Christ was born, they expected Him. They understood that two important persons would arrive. They expected two Messiahs, one of the priestly line of Aaron, and one of the royal line of Israel. This was obviously from their understanding of the prophecies of Zechariah. There may have been confusion about whether they expected two Messiahs or two witnesses, because Zechariah mentions two witnesses; one of whom will be of the line of Levi and the priestly line of Aaron; the other through the royal line of Judah (Eerdman's Handbook of the Bible - pge 495).
Their teachings so parallel the doctrine of Zechariah, son of Berakiah, that their unknown founder, known only in history as the 'Teacher of righteousness' is most likely this famous prophet who was slain between the temple and the altar (Matt 23:35). These people had a reputation for understanding prophecy, and also for interpreting dreams just like Daniel and Joseph. During his reign over Idumea, Samaria and Judah, Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, had a dream. The dream was so vivid in his mind that he wanted to know its meaning. When his own soothsayers couldn't provide a suitable explanation Archelaus called in Simon the Essene to interpret his dream. The dream, which indicated disaster for him, was interpreted by Simon the Essene with remarkable accuracy (Jos. Antiquities, 17:13:3).
The Essenes were generally known as the 'poor ones' since they didn't make any open display of wealth (Jos. Wars 2:8:3). Others called them the 'Ebionites.' Josephus, the Jewish historian, became one in the latter part of his authorship of the book bearing his name. In AD 93, Josephus was an Elder at Jerusalem (Jos. Diss. 6), apparently one of 14 elders. There is no historical record of the year of his death. He did fade from the scene some time in the mid 90's, around the time that John was released from Patmos.
Although not conclusive that John the Baptist was an Essene, the Book of Luke includes some interesting details about him. Firstly, Luke tells us that John was a Levite - both his father and mother were of the linage of Aaron. His father at that time of his birth was a priest of the course of Abijah (Luke 1:5-6). David, with the help of the priest Zadok, divided the priesthood into 24 courses, each to serve a period of two weeks per year (1Chron 24:3-18). Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, served in the eighth course.
Luke recorded this description of John the Baptist: Luke 1:66 "Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him. His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied." The next few verses is a description of Christ. Then in V76 "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Rising Sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel."
John the Baptist was a fulfillment of the Elijah to come, but he is also a fore-runner of one of the two endtime prophets to come - the one from the tribe of Levi, who also comes in the power of Elijah. It is this endtime Elijah that will complete the work done by John the Baptist. It is he that will 'guide our feet into the path of peace'; this being a reference to the return from exile of the tribes of Israel (Remember Christ saying, "Think NOT that I have come to bring peace..." Matt 10:34). The returning exiles will be purified in the furnace of affliction, only their feet will be dirty - the rest of them will be clean: John 13:7, 10 "Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." V10 "..A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why he said not every one was clean."
Isaiah 11 describes the great endtime exodus when the Tribes of Israel will again return to the lands that God promised to Abraham. Notice what is said in Isa 11:15-16 "The LORD will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that men can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of His people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt." Just as the ancient Israelites were baptised in the crossing of the Red Sea, so will the modern Israelites be baptised, but this time it will only be necessary for God to wash their feet!
The more you get to know your Bible the more you will understand that it contains no extraneous trivia. Everything is included for a purpose to enable the reader to understand it more perfectly. This is yet another aid to understanding the Bible.
Continuing the description of John the Baptist, we find that he was an unusual man. Mark 1:4 "And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and honey." John lived in the desert until the time of his ministry. Notice that the people came to the desert region near the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem. This just happens to be the Qumran district. Coincidence? Hardly!
In the latter days, when the beast sets up the abomination in the Temple courtyard, this is the time for those in Judea to flee to the mountains east of Jerusalem. And that is exactly where the ancient settlement of the Essenes existed, and where the Jerusalem Church fled to in AD 70. The modest dress and the simple diet of John the Baptist contrasted sharply with the general population of Jerusalem, otherwise it would not require a mention. Christ said of John the Baptist, that among those born of women, there was none greater than he. Notwithstanding, He also said that those who are least in the Kingdom of God would be greater than he. So Christ liberally praised John for his ways and his conduct, and his modest way of life. All those who finish their course will find things magnitudes greater in the Kingdom of God.
Christ endeavoured to teach a modest lifestyle. On two occasions He fed a huge multitude with just fish and bread. A healthy meal, but without the rich trappings. When He sent his disciples out on a field mission, He instructed them to take nothing. Mark 6:8 "These were His instructions: "Take nothing for your journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but no extra tunic." Similarly, Christians should dress modestly, but neatly in the style of the present day - but avoiding outrageous extravagance. A Christian's life is not necessarily mandatory poverty, but every Christian should be exercising restraint from time to time with simple living. Periodic fasting is a good way to condition the mind and body for the tough times ahead. You need to be prepared for a life of outgoing concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This will eventually require much caring and sharing. The time has come to make this a way of life.
We have already seen that the Thessalonians emulated the brothers in Judea (1Thess 2:13). It's very obvious from the Apostle Paul's rhetoric to the elders of Ephesus that they did not. Paul made the point that he had supported himself and his companions whilst in their company. The Ephesians apparently made no effort to provide for them: "You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions." There is another possible explanation for this, and equally plausible. Paul may not have wanted to accept anything from them because of the uncertainty he had for their conduct. This is reinforced by his statement: "I know that after I leave, SAVAGE WOLVES WILL COME IN AMONG YOU and WILL NOT SPARE THE FLOCK. Even from YOUR OWN NUMBER MEN WILL ARISE and DISTORT THE TRUTH in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM. So be ON YOUR GUARD! Remember that for three years I NEVER STOPPED WARNING EACH OF YOU night and day with tears." Paul was under no illusions about what he was dealing with. There is a suggestion in his comments that they may have been greedy for gain and covetous of other's possessions, hence the need for Paul to say: "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing" and also "WE MUST HELP THE WEAK, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
When you consider the unfeigned love and devotion of the brethren in Judea for each other, there is a marked contrast of character. We also know that Paul was not speaking generally to encourage them, but as a warning: "So be ON YOUR GUARD! Remember that for three years I NEVER STOPPED WARNING EACH OF YOU night and day with tears."
In view of the severity with which Paul delivered this message, one might well imagine that they were not true ministers at all! In normal circumstances, Paul may have taken the action that Peter took when greed and lies arose over the sale of a property by Ananias and Sapphira. Paul might rightly have said to them, 'Truthfully, you don't appear to be up to the standard required by those who shepherd God's flock.' He saw the great flaws in their character; he knew in advance that some of them would pervert the flock and lead away disciples after them, but merely told them they wouldn't see him again. But his reason is clearly given in this statement: "Keep watch over yourselves and ALL THE FLOCK of which the HOLY SPIRIT HAS MADE YOU OVERSEERS. Be SHEPHERDS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, which He bought with His own blood. Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which CAN build you up and give you an inheritance AMONG THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED."
Clearly, God had chosen these men for a special purpose. They were to be SHEPHERDS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD. The HOLY SPIRIT had made them OVERSEERS TO ALL THE FLOCK! But most important of all were the words that followed this. Read them carefully, because they explain the most central point of all! Paul said that he was committing them to God and to the word of His grace 'which CAN build you up...' - not 'will build you up'! He then said, '..and give you an inheritance among those who ARE SANCTIFIED.' Just so there are no misunderstandings about what is inferred by these words, we need only examine Paul's description of his earlier encounter with Christ to understand the meaning: Acts 26:15 "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," the Lord replied. "Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from DARKNESS TO LIGHT, and FROM THE POWER OF SATAN TO GOD, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place AMONG THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED BY FAITH IN ME." There can be no doubt that Christ was offering the Gentiles a PLACE among those who ARE already sanctified.
How many of these elders became corrupted we do not know - the Bible is silent on this. Historical records show that Polycarp, the elder of Smyrna was faithful and died in martyrdom. In fact many of the brethren from Asia also died in martyrdom. In the message to this Church they were specifically told to: 'Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life' (Rev 2:10). Those who weren't martyred were those who recanted their faith or compromised their beliefs. And it was these survivors that carried the corrupted gospel into the world.
The conduct of these people, and those in Judea, was worlds apart. While Paul was warning these people of the danger of apostasy, back in Jerusalem the Church was experiencing great miracles, and rapid, righteous growth. The seven Churches in Asia slumbered into history, finally emerging hundreds of years later into the new world to the west. And it was according to God's will! These people were being offered the same rights and privileges as the very elect, provided they proved themselves faithful until Christ comes (Rev 2:25, 3:11). God tested the children of Jacob in exactly the same way. He sent them into slavery under the bondage of a Satanic king - Pharoah! This was the people who grew to become the nation of Israel - the chosen of God. Later, God sent the royal seed and the holy seed into Babylon as slaves. From these emerged some of the greatest prophets in the Bible.
God has a plan and a purpose! It is not for us foolish humans to try to guess God's intentions and attempt to negotiate a concensus. We are here to obey! If God decides to send us all to our deaths in martyrdom - who are we to complain? We are only the clay and He is the Master Potter! We are witnesses for the prosecution - and the charges are against the arch-enemy of the universe - Satan the devil! Christianity today believes that the judicial contest is between those who accept the Gospel and those who don't! The over-riding thrust and purpose of the Bible is to destroy those who participated in the original and great rebellion - again, Satan and his demons.
There was yet one final point that Paul made to the elders of Ephesus. He spoke of martyrdom; by setting them an example of his pending death, he was preparing them for what lay ahead, and their impending martyrdom. Like the children of Jacob when they first went into Egypt, the seven Churches also enjoyed a relatively halcyon period. The martyrdom began towards the end of the second century.
THE PURPOSE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES
God had a special purpose for these seven Churches in Asia. He actually set seven special angels over them. In fact, God addressed the Church messages to these seven angels in Asia. From this, the inference can be drawn that these angels were already at their destination - with each of the seven Churches.
The Bible also speaks of seven Spirits. From the initial greeting of the Book of Revelation it says this: Rev 1:4 "Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ." So the greeting comes specifically from God the Father, the seven Spirits, and Jesus Christ. The seven Spirits are not the seven angels: Rev 3:1 "These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God AND the seven stars." Not convinced? Rev 4:5 "Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven Spirits of God." These seven Spirits are also seven blazing lamps. Now this adds a new dimension! So what is the nature of these seven Spirits? The earliest manuscripts refer to these as the sevenfold Spirit rather than the seven Spirits. The NIV gives a notation to this effect. And it is this sevenfold Spirit that speaks to the Churches: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the SPIRIT says to the Churches." These words are included in every message to the Churches. What does it mean? To find this out, we must embark on one of the most extensive studies imaginable, but the Bible reveals all!
Jesus Christ appears like a man (Rev 1:13, Dan 7:13), but very much glorified. Rev 1:12-16 completes the description of this glorified Being. But John saw another image of this great Being in Rev ch. 5 where He appears as a Lamb: Rev 5:6 "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had SEVEN HORNS and SEVEN EYES, which are the SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD SENT OUT INTO ALL THE WORLD."
This Great Being who was slain appears as a Lamb. No surprises here; Christ is the Lamb of God! But here He is depicted as having SEVEN HORNS and SEVEN EYES. These SEVEN EYES are the SEVEN SPIRITS that God sent out into ALL THE WORLD. And again, the seven Spirits means the sevenfold Spirit! So these seven spirits are the eyes of Christ!
To clarify the difference between the seven stars, the seven angels, the seven churches, the seven lampstands, the seven blazing lamps, the seven Spirits (sevenfold Spirit), and the seven horns, we find the explanation in Rev 1:20 "The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in My right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven Churches." So the seven lampstands are the seven Churches. The seven blazing lamps are the seven Spirits (sevenfold Spirit) of God who sent greetings to the seven churches (Rev 1:4). So the blazing lamps, who are the seven Spirits are NOT the seven churches! Therefore, the seven blazing lamps are also NOT the seven lampstands! Neither are they the seven angels! The sevenfold SPIRIT is jointly and severally assigned to the overall direction of the whole Body of Christ. The seven angels were assigned to the seven Churches in Asia.
Since the overall meaning of these things is far more weighty than the intent of this primary article, the explanation will be given in PART TWO. The PART ONE articles contain the elementary things that should have been revealed to you years ago had the shepherds been obeying God. The simple truth is the shepherds cared only for themselves! They weren't concerned with God's truth but only their own egos. The time has come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers (Mal 4:6, 1Kings 18:37, Luke 1:17). The PART TWO articles must be given from Jerusalem. Some of these shepherds were advised of these things years ago but refused to listen! May God grant you, dear brothers and sisters, the wisdom to understand and turn again to God. Remember that it's God's message that is important - not the messenger! God could raise up a servant from the very stones (Luke 3:8). And if God's servant failed to speak out the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). As a Christian you have an obligation to STUDY God's Word to show yourself to be an approved workman rightly dividing the Word of God (2Tim 2:15). If you are not STUDYING God's Word, how can you call yourself a Christian? Check everything! Take nothing for granted! Don't be a hearer of God's Word - be a student who studies! Follow the pointers and markers that God has placed throughout the Bible; use them to build on your knowledge. Prepare yourself and be ready for any task God calls you to. And lastly, FEAR GOD! Don't fear any man! Be strong and very courageous!
THE REMNANT TRIBES
We know that the children of Israel were a holy nation (Ex 19:6), but we also know that the Church is a holy nation: 1Pet 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." Peter was writing to God's elect: 1Pet 1:1 "...To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, ASIA and Bithynia..." Many commentaries suggest this is speaking of the tribes of Israel. But the Bible itself proves it in 1Pet 2:25 "For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have RETURNED to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." The Shepherd told Peter to 'feed My sheep' (John 21:15-17). These people were predominantly of the lost ten Tribes of Israel. This is emphasised again and again in this book. Peter even quoted Lev 11:44, 45, 19:2, 20:7, where God, in reference to the tribes of Israel says, "Be holy, because I am Holy." (1Pet 1:16). But of all these strangers scattered through Asia Minor, only Asia had the seven churches. And it is to these that the parable of the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes refers (Rev 5:6).
The Book of Revelation was given by God the Father to Jesus Christ who sent His angel (singular) to make it known to John. John was at that time on the Isle of Patmos imprisoned as punishment because of the Word of God and the TESTIMONY OF JESUS (Rev 1:9). He was then transported in vision by the Spirit to the Day of the Lord. In the first vision he saw a mighty Being who looked like a son of man, who then identified Himself as the One who was dead and is now alive. He is told to write on a scroll what he is about to see and send it to the seven Churches in Asia. The Churches are then named.
After Christ identified Himself, he told John that He has the keys to Death and Hades. In Rev 6:8 we are told that these are individuals, one of whom rides a pale horse, and the other follows shortly after.
Then Christ has this to say in Rev 1:19 "Write, therefore, what you have seen, WHAT IS NOW and WHAT WILL TAKE PLACE LATER." The 'what is now' section concerns the seven Churches that then existed. The 'what will take place later' section begins with Rev 4:1 "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.""
Christ prophesied that John would remain until He 'had come' (John 21:23). After all the other apostles were dead, John was still alive. He fulfilled this prophecy in part, having seen the glorified Christ in vision in the 'Day of the Lord.' He represented the stump in the ground at Jerusalem that would teach and instruct the seven Churches and the world. John was a type of a latter-day prophet who, together with his associate, will die in Jerusalem. Christ said this: Luke 13:31-33 "At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach My goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day - for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!"
Oh, dear! Christ seems to have gotten that wrong! Christians today claim that the Prophet John died in the city of Ephesus in Asia. Who should we believe? The Bible doesn't directly tell us where John died. We know that Peter, John and James were the pillars in Jerusalem (Gal 2:9). After his imprisonment at Patmos, it's evident that he would have returned to Jerusalem to see again those he had ministered to. However, as a prophet of the New Covenant, he surely died in Jerusalem as Christ stated! James, one of the three pillars in Jerusalem did. He was killed by Herod Agrippa 1, sometime between AD 44-48. The reference to James being a pillar in Jerusalem gives no credence to the myth that he lived and taught in Spain. Peter died in his old age, as Christ predicted: John 21:18 "I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted: but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, "Follow me." The words 'follow me' suggests, as John states here, it refers to his method and place of death. All three of the pillars of Jerusalem died there.
There was certainly some significance in this! Peter was called the 'rock' by Christ (i.e. Peter, Cephas) when his brother Andrew first introduced him (John 1:42). Confirmation of this name came when Christ asked the disciples plainly who they thought He was. It was Peter who stated in emphatic terms "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16). V17 "Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell YOU that YOU are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give YOU the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; whatever YOU bind on EARTH will be bound in heaven, and whatever YOU loose on EARTH will be loosed in heaven. Then He warned the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ." All sorts of arguments have been presented to pervert these verses. Christ was speaking to Peter, and empowering him in a special way and for a special purpose. That purpose was to administer the truth of Christ as a living witness in Jerusalem. And there can be no doubt that it was Peter that fulfilled this role more so than any other. There is no evidence that Peter sought or had any preeminence over the other disciples, but there is plenty of evidence that it was he that was singled out by God for a special purpose.
Christ's words to Peter were about binding and loosing things on EARTH. His instructions to the other disciples were less magnanimous. John 20:22 "And with that He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." Luke 24:45 "Then He opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." A number of important points are disclosed here. To all the disciples, Christ gave them the power to forgive or not forgive sins, whereas Peter had been empowered to bind or loose anything on EARTH. (The reference to the forgiveness of sins is primarily the power to heal - (Matt 9:5, Jas 5:15). But it is also the power to ask God to forgive others for their sins against us (Matt 6:12-15, 5:44). In such cases, God will honour our request and not record the sin against the offender. Christ said a precedent for this when He said, 'Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing.' In the matter of sin requiring the death penalty (and every sin does), God doesn't forgive any sin that is not repented of. All such sin is recorded until the day of judgment (Rev 20:13, Dan 12:2). So all sin that is not repented of is recorded forever - never to be erased!)
This brings us to the next point. All the disciples were required to preach a doctrine of 'repentance and forgiveness of sins....in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.' If you read through all the books of the New Testament, including all that Paul wrote, you will find that this is what they preached. They didn't preach the full Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and until the writing of the three books of Peter, it was virtually ignored. In these, Peter begins to describe the prophetic events of the full Gospel. Even the three epistles of John contain very little to do with endtime prophecy. But the Book of Revelation does! And this was written after the deaths of all the other apostles including Paul. (The book of Jude, Christ's younger brother, mirrors the thrust of Peter's letters.) It's also true that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians concerning a certain prophecy by Daniel (2Thess 2:4), which Christ also mentioned (Matt 24:15-16, Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). But it's evident that, although Paul and others were anticipating an imminent return of Christ, they concentrated their preaching on 'repentance and forgiveness of sin' just as they were required to do!
Doesn't it seem odd that in the whole of the New Testament, only the Book of Revelation tackles the endtime prophecies with the definitive detail of that foreshadowed by the O.T. prophets. It could be argued that the people of that era were not expecting Christ's imminent return, and so acknowledged that endtime prophecy was not applicable to them. But the truth is, that Peter, John and Paul all had an expectation of Christ's imminent return (1Pet 4:7, 1John 2:18, 2Thess 2:1-7). Yet they concentrated their efforts on proving that Christ was the Messiah, and preaching 'repentance and forgiveness of sin', literally ignoring unfulfilled prophecy concerning the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
Paul spoke of the mystery of God some 14 times, but never defined its meaning. John recorded when this mystery will be finished: Rev 10:7 "But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to His servants the prophets." So the 'mystery of God' is not the doctrine of 'repentance and forgiveness of sin.' This was accomplished by all the Apostles, and many others since then. So strongly is this belief held that Christianity is all about 'repentance and forgiveness of sin' it has become the central doctrine of almost every Christian group in the world. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, said this: Heb 6:1 "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, and laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Paul lists these teachings as elementary, and stresses the need to go on to maturity. These are all important principles, and they need to be thoroughly established - but the important role of a Christian is to go on to maturity! And even more so as the Great Day approaches.
The 'mystery of God' will be accomplished when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet. And all the world will know - including the rulers of the heavenly realms! Christ referred to the horrific time that is fast approaching: Luke 21:20, 22 "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near." V22 "For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of ALL that has been WRITTEN." And to reinforce the gravity of that which He spoke, Christ said this in V33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." So 'repentance and forgiveness of sin' is not a substitute for fulfilled prophecy! Everything that Christ said will happen, and according to an exact time frame.
During the 20th century, it's been very easy to be a Christian, particularly in the western world. It hasn't been so easy for the Jews however! In Russia and Europe, in particular, they have been persecuted and murdered by the million! Doesn't it seem a little strange that all of Christ's warnings about persecution and death for believing in Him have proven baseless during this past 100 years? But Christ was adamant that His words would not pass away until all is fulfilled. This is what He said: Luke 21:10 "Then He said to them, "Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. BUT BEFORE ALL THIS, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to contradict. You will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will save yourselves."
Let's now be brutally frank! All the silly articles that have been written by the fruitloops that are masquerading as shepherds of God's flock that claim that the two world wars, and recent earthquakes, and diseases and epidemics, and famines, relate to fulfilled prophecy is crazy! They are deluded! Christ said 'BUT BEFORE ALL THIS...' a massive persecution will begin against God's true servants! Christ told you in advance, but instead you've chosen to believe the lying frauds!
It's true that conditions in the world are beginning to simulate Christ's prophecies, but nothing has happened yet that begins to approach the magnitude of what we can expect. All that your eyes have beheld in the way of disasters in your lifetime is like a 'stroll in the park' in comparison to what you have yet to see! Virtually every city on earth will be destroyed, the landscape totally erased, mountains will crumble, and the oceans will engulf huge sections of landmass. People will die by the billion! And all these things are recorded in your Bible! You've probably read them, but you haven't believed them! You've been slumbering all these years, listening to the siren-song of the fakes and frauds! It's time to wake up!
Now prepare yourselves for the greatest shock of all! God has allowed His Church to drift into apostacy over the past nearly 2,000 years. It was God's purpose to expose His people to Satan's deception in exactly the same way that He sent the 12 tribes of Israel into Egypt in preparation for Satan's reign in that land. Shortly after the death of Joseph, the Cushite pharoahs took control of the land. This was Satan's murderous brood, and he, as the great harlot ruled over the land and the tribes of Israel. God used Satan's brutal treatment against the Israelites as evidence against him - and judgment was given against that kingdom, and God destroyed it!
Meanwhile, back in Canaan, the Amorites were reaching their zenith in evil. God prepared to destroy them, using the fledgling nation of Israel. Now it might be argued that God has the power to destroy a nation of human beings like the Egyptians or the Amorites - why would He use the Israelites to do this?
There are a number of reasons. God created this earth to be inhabited, and to be administered according to His laws. God is not a tyrant. With proper training and experience, God's created beings can live happily and in harmony. Humanity is God's preferred species. He made them in His own likeness. Even prior to humanity's creation, Lucifer ruled over this earth. He eventually destroyed it. God works within the framework of His laws and His creation. God empowered Israel to defeat the Amorites as long as they were obedient to Him. When they were not, they too, were defeated. God is even-handed. Satan knew that by corrupting the Israelites God would curse them. With this in mind, he sought someone to curse them. Balaam the mad magician was sought to perform this task. He knew that merely cursing them would not be honoured by God - since only God had the power to bring it about. So he used a different strategy. He enticed them with hordes of beautiful women - from among the seed of Satan, and sure enough they fell for it! The strongest urge in the human ego is infallible as a weapon of destruction in those whose minds are not at one with God. It became Satan's preferred weapon.
It's a powerful weapon that is still used today. God specifically warns against it with a reference to Balaam in Rev 2:14 "...You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." The warning is repeated, this time in a reference to Jezebel [Ahab's wife and great granddaughter to Hiram, king of Tyre], who, through the shroud of religion to make it seem virtuous, did the same thing: Rev 2:20 "...You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols."
Yes, dear brothers-in-Christ, you are living it all again; it's de jevu time. This time, you children of Israel, you are required to do it right! You have an advantage that the ancient house of Israel did not have - you have the knowledge of history and its consequences to guide you. Paul said, that all these thing happened for our example: 1Cor 10:6 "Now these things occurred as EXAMPLES, to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.' We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did - and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did - and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did - and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as EXAMPLES and were written down as WARNINGS for us, on whom THE FULFILMENT OF THE AGES HAS COME."
God is calling you out of Egypt once more - and right now that is where you are spiritually, whether you want to believe it or not! You have been deceived and deluded! Worse than that, you think that you are not! You know very well that all that you have been taught doesn't answer all the questions raised in the Bible. You have merely studied a thin veneer and glossed over the weightier matters of the Bible. You've sought out encouragement and deception to make you feel good - and this has been fed to you by those who don't fear God! These people are liars and frauds regardless of how virtuous they appear!!
Nothing is going to change God's timetable, and no siren-like words will change this! Stop listening to them and start watching and searching. You will find all the answers, and the truth will set you free. Remember Christ's warning in Matt 24:15 "So when you see standing in the holy place, the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through Daniel the prophet - LET THE READER UNDERSTAND....." Yes, it means the READER! You must READ the Holy Scriptures for yourself and prove them for yourselves! Christ's instructions were very specific on this. You are not permitted to allow others to tell you what the Bible means! You must go to the source of all knowledge and check everything! When you are well-grounded in knowledge, you will be able to read the trash put out by the false prophets and immediately recognize their lying deceptions. The Word of God is like a priceless jewel, a pearl of great price. It should be the most important thing in your life. If it's not then you won't be in God's Kingdom.
No amount of articles and books can adequately cover the wealth of knowledge in the Word of God. Every word, phrase, sentence and syllable has meaning. Buy a New International Version of the Bible. It's not a perfect translation, but it's miles ahead of many of the other versions including the KJV. All translations have their set-backs, because the translators didn't understand the true message of the Bible. Whether rightly or wrongly, deliberately or unintentionally, they injected their own views to some extent. Some of you will need to take a 'sabbatical', that is, a few weeks off work to concentrate on Bible study, to become acquainted with the true understanding of the Bible.
If you continue to drift along, driven by every wind of doctrine then you are in real trouble. It's time to force the issue! Remember Christ's words: Matt 11:12 "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." Christ specifically mentioned 'from the days of John the Baptist'. Now the Bible tells us that John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Notice Luke 3:4 "As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for Him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind shall see God's salvation.'" This is not spiritual talk - this is a description of events that Isaiah spoke of through chapters 40:3 to chapter 66. It describes utter devastation of the landmass of the earth.
Now notice the next verse: Luke 3:7 "John said to the CROWDS coming out to be baptised by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the TREES [plural], and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire." So what did the CROWDS have to say about this verbal assault? V10 "What shall we do then? the CROWD asked." They didn't retaliate with abuse, but asked John's advice - which he gave! Among this crowd were tax collectors (V12) and soldiers (V14) so this was a broad cross-section of the community. All this before Christ began His ministry! The people were expecting Christ's appearance: Luke 3:15 "The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptise you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The winnowing fork is in His hand to clear the threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the GOOD NEWS to them." So what John preached to this crowd was GOOD NEWS, even though it spoke of the judgment fire and the destruction of the worthless chaff.
If some of the well-known television evangelists spoke as John the Baptist did, would they still have the following that they currently have? People don't want to hear it! They want to hear the kind of message that makes them feel good about themselves.
The ministry of John the Baptist was different! He moved right into preaching about the coming Kingdom of God with all intensity! He began with Isa 40:3 and moved right on through the rest of Isaiah, speaking of destruction and chaos. His ministry was also about repentance and the forgiveness of sin - and more, but it was cut short, to await his successor in the endtime - the latter-day Elijah.
God foretold, hundreds of years before Christ, of two special prophets that would arise in the endtime. Their primary purpose is to prepare the way for the Lord. They will preach the true Gospel from Jerusalem, and this light will shine into all the world. They will be 'two prophets', 'two witnesses', 'two branches', 'two olive trees', 'two lampstands', and 'two anointed ones.' They will also be 'two shepherds' and 'two watchmen.'
Up to now, there has been seven lampstands. One for each of the Churches in Asia. God has tracked their progress and recorded their sins and their virtues. In the Book of Revelation the two prophets are described as two olive trees AND two lampstands: Rev 11:3 "I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophecy for 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees AND the TWO LAMPSTANDS that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want." Notice that the 'fire that comes from their mouths' is not a euphemism for strong preaching - it means death! Those who are the recipients of it will die! Be aware that things are not what they seem. Whatever the world may believe is politically correct, they will soon have it thrust down their throats until they choke on it! As long as they want to defy God with their own brand of sanctimony, they will suffer the consequences.
By all means pray for your enemies and those who spitefully use you. This is right and proper. But don't take it upon yourselves to pray for the enemies of God - this is an act of treachery! Don't participate in public rallies for promised 'liberties.' Don't donate money to organisations that attempt to thwart God's judgment. Don't pray for, or support, the starving Cushites that God has judged. God could have sent rain to the famine-stricken African nations and ended the famine - but He didn't! Do you agree that God was just? If you had the power, would you have ended the famine? If the answer is yes, then you are not in agreement with God! You must get your thoughts and your priorities right! If you don't NOW, then you will be in great danger of offending God when the crunch-time comes. You may even find yourself wanting to kill God's two prophets! If you found offence in what God has done to Satan's evil brood in Africa and elsewhere, what will be your reaction be to what happens in your own country? God is in control! You don't have to question His judgment - it is correct! Always! See what Christ said: Luke 21:25 "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the WORLD, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken." The translation of these verses is relatively innocuous in comparison to their true meaning. There are plenty of other descriptions about coming events.
Perhaps you think now that this message is too hard. You don't feel comfortable with it. Maybe you don't want to hear such hard truth. Be warned that it is far better to hear the words than to experience the events. You had better be certain that your loyalties are with God and accept that you are not a citizen of this world. Your anxiety will not change anything, but your total faith in God and your commitment to Him will!
You decide. It's your life.
END OF PART ONE
PART TWO WILL FOLLOW SOON
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